My constellation choice for level 5 was Jon’s ‘Learning from contemporary art’ group. This was my primary choice as contemporary art is a broad topic which I thought would have interesting and relevant topics for my practice. The questions brought up in these lectures were,
What does it mean to be contemporary?
What does the world look like?
Who is the other?
What are my responsibilities to the wider world?
What about pleasure?
These topics and questions are important to consider within any type of art I’m practicing, therefore I’m confident this choice would have been most beneficial to me. I found the lecture discussing otherness in contemporary art interesting, as otherness was a concept I had not looked into in-depth before. Zuleyka Zevallos’ definition of otherness broke down social identities, for example gender identity, cultural identity and class, into the umbrella of otherness. In my opinion, validation and recognition of social identity and otherness are key as a way of progressing as a society, and is not only important in contemporary art, but the present day in general.
My dissertation topics have changed multiple times, as I have developed ideas as part of my practice, however the themes of comic and sequential art have remained fairly constant. My final dissertation topic currently reflects my curiosity with narrative and comics. As I began researching ideas and comics for my dissertation, I came across freudian dream symbolism, which I found to link with my current ideas with dreams and surrealism, even though I disagree with many of the claims. Freud’s ideas on the unconscious mind are intriguing to me, as my artwork is currently a reflection of how I interpret my dreams and thoughts to understand myself better. Whilst I disagree with some ideas, the notion that some thoughts are inaccessible and ‘below the surface of awareness’ rings true to me, and I feel artwork is a medium to access these thoughts.
Another idea I have since taken interest in is sequential art. Whilst looking at horror and pulp art during level 4 and 5, I had briefly looked into manga and comics, as these were also interests of my friends, which I was keen to look further into. I became interested in the ways in which narrative can be presented in comics and animation. I began reading Will Eisner books, such as Comics and Sequential Art, and Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative which explain the methods in comic book writing. Whilst I don’t intend to start writing whole comic books, I have also been looking at comic strips, such as Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes and Dick Tracy. I’m now able to think more critically about other artists I have been looking at in subject, such as Raymond Pettibon, and the research I have done on visual language has carved a path for my future work. I may not directly create artwork in the form of a traditional comic strip, but the combination of text and images are something I will consider in my future work. Furthermore, the seemingly endless possibilities of communication through ‘sequential art’ are something I am currently aiming to explore in my studio practice, as well as my dissertation. For this reason, I have chosen to write a 6000 word dissertation accompanied by an artefact, which will be my own piece of work I will analyse and compare alongside two or three comic book artists, and two artists. My dissertation will explore the ways in which narrative and communication are portrayed in sequential art, in modern and historical contexts. This is relevant to me, because I have enjoyed applying techniques from my research into my work, creating visual narratives.
I’m interested in looking at Art Spiegelman’s Maus, I had briefly read through this graphic novel whilst studying for my A-levels. Spiegelman uses techniques in sequential art which instils sympathy into the reader, for example, the Jews in the novel were represented by mice, and the Germans as cats. This illustrates a deeper sense of vulnerability, comparing Jews to mice, not only to reinforce the ‘vermin’ stereotype, but to show their powerlessness. Alongside this I have been looking at the Black Panther comics created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The juxtaposition of powerlessness in Maus and the representations of black power and resistance, against enemies and the KKK.
I was suggested Olivia Plender’s work by Jon in a tutorial, and have since taken interest as I enjoy the presentation and stylistic choices of her work. Her piece, The Masterpiece particularly interested me whilst reading a summary on the Saatchi website, as the work had been described as a ‘by-product of artistic process and not actual artworks’, which I felt related to the way I work. In reflection, much of the work I produce, I invalidate as it never feels like a full piece of artwork, however this should not matter, perhaps matter even less as I’m currently using art as a way of learning about myself. Looking into this side of sequential art, I am less inclined to feel like my artwork should ‘impress’. I feel this idea of the work being a by-product, focusing on the artistic process is appealing to me, and because of this, I have been considering this in my own work. I have been creating drawings which come together and relate with one idea each set. Thinking about my artistic process and how I’ve been applying myself to each piece, has allowed me to create work efficiently and successfully, whilst improving my drawing techniques. I am much less inclined to give up on a piece simply because I’m unhappy with it, so I am welcoming failure, as a means to learn from my mistakes.
Overall, whilst researching for my dissertation, I have found interesting links between different theories, such as dream symbolism and surrealism, visual language, gestalt and sequential art. This has helped me better understand the work I’m looking at currently in subject, and given me inspiration for my own work.